my father moved through dooms of love

by e. e. cummings
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Please write an in-depth summary of my father moved through dooms of love by e. e. cummings. This is a study guide question posted by eNotes Editorial. Please note that this material is intended to supplement the information presented in our eNotes study guide.

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E. E. Cummings pens a beautiful tribute to his father in "my father moved through dooms of love." In this poem, Cummings, presumably speaking as himself through the poem, explains how his father lived his life well.

The first stanza presents several paradoxes: doom/love, have/give, morning/night, depth/height. Cummings presents his father as a man who can do the impossible. He can "[sing] each morning out of each night." His father brings light out of darkness. One "glance" from his father can turn things that are "motionless" or dead into something that is "shining." Cummings is saying that his father can bring life to any hopeless situation. Since Cummings speaks of his father in the past tense and in a sense of adoration, we know this is an elegy.

The third stanza is the first that provides a reference to time: April. Here, Cummings begins to examine the months of his father's life by beginning with its seasons. His father "drove sleeping selves to swarm their fates." A sleeping self represents someone who doesn't quite know what he wants out of life yet. His father "drove" such people to chase after their fates much as a bee swarms—with a passionate vigor.

His father is seen as a comforter in the fourth stanza. He reaches out to those who "weep," telling them that he can "feel the mountains grow." Typically, mountains are used in metaphors as representative of difficulties, but Cummings uses them to express the subtlety of his father's feeling and to convey a sense of his father's power. This image is placed near the "small voice" of despair. A mountain of resolve (his father's) could ease the sadness.

Moving through "griefs of joy" is another paradox reminiscent of the first stanza. Here, his father is seen to have experienced the ultimate highs and lows of life—all of its grief and all of its joy. He also inspires other people as he coaxes them from their desires into action.

Cummings remembers the pure joy of his father's life. He repeats the word "joy" and the word "pure" in this stanza; Cummings wants the reader to understand the innocent joy of his father's life. His personality was so contagious that other hearts could steer their own paths by following his example.

In the midsummer of his life (another reference to months or seasons), his father has his own dream which loomed over him. This likely refers to midlife, when so many people begin to shift goals and their perspectives about life. His father faces this looming dream with a keen mind (the adjective repeated twice for emphasis). He has a good sense of reason.

Although the speaker has presented his father as an almost superhuman hero so far in the poem, the next stanza is a reminder that he is a mere human. He is made of flesh and blood like everyone else. He faces his own struggles in life. However, people are drawn to him and to his joy; he is compelling.

In the ninth stanza, the speaker acknowledges that his father doesn't walk about in joy every moment of every day. In fact, he scorns excess celebrations that are put on just for the sake of doing so. He doesn't favor doing things out of mere obligation. He feels anger that is justified in the proper situations and shows pity for those who are deserving. His father is portrayed with many complex emotions.

In the September of his life, likely as he progresses toward death, in "autumn," his father still reaches out to help people—both foes and friends. He helps all people see how immeasurably wonderful life is in order to help them live better lives themselves.

The month of October is referenced immediately after September, so it becomes clear in the next stanza that his father is quickly approaching his death. In doing so, he is ready for his "immortal work." He "proudly" feels that he has done what is needed in this life, and he is prepared for what comes next.

In twelfth stanza, the speaker notes that if every friend turned against his father, he would laugh. Not only that, but he would "build a world with snow." His father could create something new out of the impossible, taking their cold sentiments and laying a new foundation for something lasting.

Spring images appear in the following stanza, but this time it is to remind the reader that even in this autumn of his life, his father is still very much engaged with the living. He still gives joy to children and brings new hope to those in need. He is not just an old man who is passively waiting for death. He continues to live truly and passionately.

His father disappears from the fourteenth stanza, and the sense of peaceful joy disappears with him. Instead, this stanza is filled with images of war as "men kill" over things that they "cannot share." Human bodies, made of "blood and flesh" become mere "mud and more" through the fighting.

The fifteenth stanza continues in the images of suffering in the absence of his father, and the speaker touches on another idea as well: the danger of conformity. The speaker views this as a "disease."

The sixteenth stanza continues in dark imagery, noting that humans often swallow the "bitter" and proclaim it "sweet," either through ignorance or through conformity. And for this, humans both inherit death and "bequeath" it to their own children.

The speaker brings back hope in the final stanza by saying that, although it seems at times that man exists simply to hate, his father proved that life is more than this. His father lived in love and joy, and this has the power to overcome all of the hate of the world.

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